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Archive for March 2012

The Power of Humility

All over America these days we can see how the rich and mighty get around.  Those who would like to lead us roar around the country on huge busses, with their names and faces emblazoned on the sides, ready to campaign in every city and town, shouting their messages, shaking their fingers into the cameras, promising to be “tougher,” to “never apologize,” to “keep America #1.”  Our President flies in a special armored jet, the likes of which most of us will never see.  He moves among crowds, but is always separated out by the secret service, a barrier that is both comforting and isolating.  The days in which he or any president can be truly “of the people” are long gone. 

It is no wonder most of us have an uneasy view of power.  We are drawn to it (we want our leaders to be strong and, when necessary, tough), and we distrust it (how many more stories of financial and sexual betrayals can we stand to hear about our elected officials?).  The old adage about power corrupting, and absolute power corrupting absolutely, has proven true too many times.  So, like moths to the flame, we flit around the edges of power, excited by the heat but wary of the burn.

And then there is Jesus.  When people sometimes ask me why I am a Christian, I think of Jesus and how he lived out a completely different understanding of power.  This Sunday is Palm Sunday, and if we are willing to really look, we can see the difference in how Jesus understood and used his power.  We remember the story of him riding into town on a donkey, not a chariot.  Crowds gathered and shouted accolades, but even in the midst of the parade, something was different. 

“As he made his entrance in to Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken.  Unnerved, people were asking, ‘What’s going on here?  Who is this?’”

(Matt. 21:10, The Message)

They were unnerved because Jesus’ script about power was completely different than anything they had seen – or much of what we see today.  His was a power rooted in humility:  he always pointed away from himself to God and the greater good.  He did not establish a monument to himself or his own ego.  He did not ask that he receive special privileges or honors.  Whatever personal influence he had he used to protect the poor and to turn our hearts toward Compassion.  The verses immediately preceding and following the Palm Sunday story show us what kind of power he believed in.  Just before he entered Jerusalem, he passed two blind men on the road.  Though the crowd was impatient for his attention, he stopped and spoke with the men and healed them. (Matt 20:29-31)  Immediately following the parade, he went to the temple, where he exercised his power by overturning the money tables.  Not to make a scene or to seem tough, but because he wanted to make room for “the blind and cripples to get in.”  (Matt. 21:14).

I am a Christian because Jesus’ power makes sense to me.  I follow his teachings because I trust a power rooted in humility far more than I will ever trust the power of money or prestige or political ideology or guns.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor.”    He taught us, “Whatsoever you do for the least of my people, you do for me.”  And finally, when crowds offered him the kind of power they understood, power over others, he never wavered from this core teaching:  “If anyone wants to be first, he or she must be the very last, the servant of all.”  (Mark 9: 35).  That’s the power of humility.  When you get sick of the shouting on television and the radio, when you despair about the blatant hypocrisy of this political season, remember Jesus’ words about power.  They are the call of our faith, the very grounding of our spirituality.  They are the reason I choose to follow Jesus. 

How about you?   

Kim

Click here for the March 28th Newsletter.

KNOW YOUR COMMUNITY

Please join us for the first in our

series of speakers

who can help us learn about new areas of need

and explore potential partnerships.

Palm Sunday

April 1st

4:00 pm

Worship,

Fellowship,

a simple Meal,

and a Conversation

with Council Member, Barbara Pierce

160 Birch Street, Redwood City

 

EASTER SUNDAY

Celebrate with us

at

Casa de Redwood

1280 Veterans Blvd., Redwood City

Seventh Floor

Easter Sunday

April 8th

4:00pm

Stay and enjoy fellowship and snacks after Worship

ALL Welcome!!!

 

ON the BEACH

I drove to the ocean recently.  I was waiting for some news to come, and while I waited for the phone call, I sat on the shore and watched the waves.  In and out, ebbing and flowing, constantly moving, no matter what was happening anywhere else.

I am a child of the mountains and the desert.  I did not grow up with crashing waves and the sounds of the sea.  Yet, I find the ocean a place of renewal and hope.  The vastness awes me; the constancy reassures me.  Like so many gifts of nature, the ocean offers a glimpse of that Mystery of Life which is just outside our ken, yet so present to us in our daily needs.  No wonder poets and theologians find the sea so compelling.  It serves as a reminder of the on-going, never changing nature of Divine Love.  

I found a poem recently that speaks to that.  May it remind you that there is nothing that is bigger than our life in God, and there is nothing that can separate us from God.   Thanks be to God. 

Kim

CONFESSION

 

 The worst diminishing thing

I do to myself

Is to make God too small.

 My original sin

Is to put God in a box

And have done with it.

 I want to make my life tidy,

Like I’m entitled

To smooth sailing.

 But God, thank God,

Knows my M.O.

God says:

“Why worry about shipwrecks if I am the ocean?”

 

 (Arthur LeClair, published in Sacred Journey,

August/September 2007)

Click here for the March 21st Newsletter

The Cell Phone Angel

What would you say if an angel picked up the phone when you called?   What would you want to ask? – or share?—or ponder?  Seems like an unlikely scenario, I know, but at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in the Netherlands,  there are about 30 people a day who are calling a phone line set up specifically for calls to the “Cell Phone Angel.”  The angel is the work of   sculptor Ton Mooy,  who won a competition in 1997 to replace 14 of the stone angels that surround the church, angels that were deteriorating because of age and pollution.  So Mr. Mooy replaced them all, each one sculpted in the original Gothic style – except one.  If you look closely, there is one angel, curly haired and winged, who is holding a cell phone to her ear, listening patiently to whoever is on the line.

 

So how does the angel get 30 calls a day?  A young couple in the area decided to set up a dedicated phone line, made up fliers and business cards, and placed them around the community, inviting anyone who wanted to call the Cell Phone Angel.  Calls started coming in, and they have been amazed at what they have found.  Some are humorous, but many are poignant:  people around the holidays who want to share their grief, or their loneliness; children who want to ask a question or share a story.  The listeners don’t give advice, they just listen, and apparently that has turned into a ministry of its own:  patiently listening to the questions and struggles of real people, people who know they aren’t really talking to an angel, but somehow want to reach out anyway, in a safe and sacred setting.  It’s a sacrament of listening that’s happening there, and an opportunity for people to imagine what it is they really want to say about what is most important in their lives and faith.

So what would you say?  If you thought you could pick up the phone and place a call to God or one of God’s messengers, what question would you ask? – what story would you tell?  What is in your heart that is aching to be shared with someone who will really listen and will treat it as the sacred gift that it is?

God hears you.  God is present in so many ways:  in our own prayers or  shared prayers with others, through conversations with people who really listen, in a community that takes the time to be there for one another.  We may not have a stone angel in front of our building, but we can and do take part in the sacrament of listening every time we share with honesty and vulnerability about our lives and every time we listen to someone else with patience and respect.  These are holy acts.  We are all made better because of them. 

What would you say if an angel were on the other end of your phone line?  Whatever it is, know that God hears and accepts it. And know that here, in this place, all that you are and all that you carry is welcomed, with love.  Let us hear one another. 

Thanks be to God!

Kim

(I first read about the Cell Phone Angel in the New York Times on March 7, in an article by John Tagliabue.  Check out the whole article at www.nytimes.com)

Click here for the 3-14-12 Newsletter

“Who do You Say That I am?”

Do you recognize that question?  It’s the question Jesus asked his disciples one day as they were walking along the road from one village to another talking about the people whom they met along the way.  They started out by talking about how everyone else saw Jesus:  “Who do they say that I am?”, Jesus began.  The disciples were eager to speculate on the opinions of others:  a prophet, a teacher, Elijah.  It’s always interesting to focus on the understandings and misunderstandings of other people, and that conversation could probably have gone on for a long time.  But Jesus wasn’t willing to let his followers stay in that safe and easy place.  His real question for them: 

 “Who do you say that I am?”

This past Sunday night, we gathered around our big family table here at church, and we listened to that same question asked of us.  There are all sorts of theological treatises on Jesus’ identity, and many traditional (and not so traditional) interpretations of his life and meaning.  Yet it is ultimately our own answer to that question that shapes our lives.

As a way of answering that question for ourselves, on Sunday night we began by prayerfully considering several pictures of Jesus created by artists from around the world.  You see most of them scattered through the Newsletter this week.  We spent several quiet minutes looking at the images in front of us, and seeing which ones drew us in.  After a time, we began to share what these pictures evoked for us about what we believed about Jesus.  “This one looks strong and courageous –  like he is able to take care of things, even the most difficult and painful things.”  “This Jesus looks like he can see who I am –  and still loves me.”  “I see someone whose gaze is gentle and compassionate.”  “The Jesus that speaks to me is looking downward, as if there is no one too small to see and love.”  “This picture I grew up with, and it was always there for me.  That’s how I experience Jesus even now.”  “This picture looks cold and distant, and that’s the opposite of how I see Jesus in my life.” 

And, in response to the picture of Jesus standing in a breadline:  “I like that Jesus is in line with everyone, one of them, suffering alongside of them.  The Jesus I believe in isn’t just the one who feeds us from on high –  he suffers with us, too, and knows how we feel.”  Each picture and each response reminded us that there are many ways to approach Jesus, and no one image can say it all.

 

We ended our reflections by reading aloud the statements of other people of faith.  Yet even as we listened, we were invited to keep our hearts and our prayers focused on the on-going question Jesus still asks of us:  “Who do you say that I am?”  May each of us be moved this Lent to open ourselves more fully to the mystery and challenge of that question, and may we continue to share our experiences as we walk this road together. 

Thanks be to God!

           Kim

Click here for the 3-7-12 Newsletter